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Social Security Disability Frequently Asked Questions

Social Security Disability FAQs for WV victims

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability Benefits in West Virginia

Many people get confused and intimidated by the process involved with applying for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits or appealing a denied claim.

The application requires you to provide extensive personal, medical and employment information. You must also provide sufficient documentation. If you pursue an appeal, you must meet many other requirements. You may even need to present your case before an administrative law judge.

A lawyer can play an important role in helping you to get through this process and ease a great deal of your stress. At Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, we take that role seriously. We will use the full extent of our legal skill and resources and aggressively seek the disability benefits you deserve.

Our lawyers have more than 35 years of combined legal experience, including an extensive background in Social Security disability law. We have helped countless disabled residents in Charleston and throughout West Virginia to pursue the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits they were entitled to receive.

Here, we provide answers to questions you may have about SSD benefits. To discuss the specific facts of your case, please call us today. We can provide a free initial consultation.

Answers to Commonly Asked SSD Questions

Social Security Disability

Do I have a Social Security disability case?

The answer depends on many factors, including which type of benefits you want to receive.

If you pursue Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must be disabled and meet the Social Security Administration’s “work credit” requirements, meaning you have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify for these benefits.

If you pursue Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you must also have a disability. However, you do not need to meet any work credit requirements. Instead, you must show that you have limited income and resources.

As you can see, no matter which type of benefits claim you file, you will need to establish that you have a qualifying disability. To meet the Social Security Administration’s very narrow definition of a “disability,” you must show:

  • You have a “medically determinable” physical or mental impairment. You must have a diagnosable mental or physical impairment (or a combination of impairments).
  • Your impairment has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or to result in death. In other words, you must have a total and permanent disability and not a partial or temporary disability.
  • Your impairment prevents you from engaging in “substantial gainful activity.” Your monthly income cannot exceed a specific threshold amount, which the SSA adjusts each year. For instance, in 2017, the SGA threshold is:
    • $1,170 per month for non-blind individuals
    • $1,950 per month for blind individuals.

Generally speaking, the more your condition or injury impacts your ability to perform daily work tasks, the more likely you will qualify for benefits. If your situation involves a combination of physical and mental disorders, your chances will increase even more.

Your age, education level and job history also will impact your claim. Any previous jobs that you held will be reviewed to determine your work capacity and whether you can return to a job that is less demanding.

How much will my disability case be worth?

Whether you pursue SSDI or SSI benefits, the “worth” of your case will depend on two factors: The amount you can receive in monthly payments and the backpay you are eligible to receive.

For SSDI benefits, your monthly benefits payments will be based on your average lifetime “covered earnings” before the onset of your disability. Covered earnings are wages that included an amount which was deducted as a Social Security tax. (However, if you receive other benefits such as worker’s compensation, your monthly payments may be reduced.)

If you qualify for SSDI benefits, you can also receive backpay. These benefits go back to the date you submitted your application. You may also qualify for retroactive benefits that go back to the date your disability began, or your established onset date (EOD), minus a five-month waiting period. For example, if your EOD was seven months before your application date, you would be eligible to receive two months in retroactive benefits.

For SSI benefits, your monthly payments are based on the federal benefit rate (FBR), which changes each year to reflect cost-of-living increases. The amount of monthly income that you earn is deducted from your payments (although some earned income can be excluded).

If you qualify for SSI, you can receive backpay benefits that go back to one month after your application date. However, if your EOD falls on a later date, your backpay would go back to only that date.

When should I file a Social Security Disability claim?

As soon as you are diagnosed with a mental and/or physical condition that may qualify you for SSD benefits in West Virginia, you should start work on preparing and filing your application.

The application and approval process can be lengthy and time-consuming. So, the sooner you begin the process, the better. Also, as discussed above, the date of your application is a factor that goes into determining the amount you receive in backpay benefits.

If you need help with preparing your application, including gathering documentation to support your claim, you should contact an experienced SSD benefits lawyer right away.

In addition to helping you to apply for benefits, a lawyer can file a “protective filing date” letter before you actually submit the application. The protective filing date can be used to establish your right to backpay benefits.

How can I check the status of my application?

If you have applied for SSD benefits in West Virginia with our help, we will keep you informed on the progress of your case every step of the way.

You can also check the status of your application by creating an account through the Social Security Administration website. The site can provide information such as:

  • The date that the SSA received your application
  • The SSA’s requests for additional documents
  • Address of the office processing your application
  • The decision made on your claim (of course, you will also get this decision sent to you in the mail).

You can also see if your application is incomplete or if it contains any other error such as the wrong Social Security number.

When are benefits paid?

The Social Security Administration pays out disability benefits the month following the month that you earned the benefit. The date on which the benefits are paid is determined by the birthday of the person on whose record you receive benefits, and SSI payments generally arrive on the first of the month. If your check is missing, lost, or stole, you can ask for a replacement but it will take some time to be processed.

What should I do if my disability benefits claim is denied?

A Social Security disability benefits claim may be denied for any number of reasons. Even one part of a form being filled out incorrectly can lead to a denial. This is why you should work with a lawyer right from the start.

For instance, a lawyer from our firm can help you to gather all of the information and documentation you need for your application. We can also ensure that it is completely and accurately filled out before you submit it.

If your Social Security disability (SSD) benefits claim is denied, you may feel like you are out of options. However, you can actually take several steps to appeal the decision. Your claim may ultimately be approved on appeal.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has very specific rules that must be followed to the letter in order to appeal a decision.

If your claim has been denied, you must submit a request for reconsideration within 60 days from the date of the decision. This date should appear on the notice you receive from the SSA.

You can continue to appeal any decisions made on your claim. For instance, if your claim is denied, your next stage would be to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. You can then seek review by the SSA Appeals Council or file a claim in the U.S. District Court that is nearest to you.

Appealing a denied claim can be a long process. However, it will be worth pursuing in order to obtain the benefits you deserve.

How long will I have to wait for a hearing on my claim?

If your claim is denied at both the initial and reconsideration stages, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge, or ALJ.

A hearing can be a long process. You may actually wait several months just to get your case placed on a calendar.

For instance, the SSA has a list of approximate wait times for hearings. As you can see, the current wait time for a hearing at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Charleston is currently at 20 months.

The wait for a hearing may be intimidating when you are disabled and need your benefits to survive. However, you can take steps to expedite your case at the hearing stage.

First, you can retain the services of an attorney who is experienced in handling disability claims. This will take some of the stress off of you. Your attorney can turn to several methods to expedite the process.

If you are homeless, or without food or shelter, you may be able to expedite your hearing with a dire need claim. This tells the SSA that you are in dire need of a hearing and cannot wait.

You may also attempt to contact your local representatives for help in expediting your hearing. This is called a Congressional Inquiry. The representative can write to the SSA on your behalf. Pursuing this inquiry can be highly effective in expediting a decision in your case.

Finally, you may be able to expedite your hearing by requesting an on-the-record (OTR) review. An OTR is a good option if your claim was denied on a technicality, and the evidence is overwhelmingly in your favor.

Your attorney will know the best course of action for expediting your hearing and will properly advise you.

What should I expect at my disability benefits hearing?

Your disability benefits hearing will take place at your nearest Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). In West Virginia, ODAR offices are located in Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown.

According to the SSA, your hearing should take place within 75 miles of your home. If, for some reason this is not possible, the SSA will assist you with making travel arrangements. You may also be able to have your hearing conducted remotely by video.

During the hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) will question you, your representative, your witnesses and any other witnesses such as doctors or vocational experts. The ALJ will try to shed light on any confusing aspects of your case and will take the opportunity to go over all the evidence in your case. After the hearing, the ALJ will issue a written decision on your case.

The best way to be prepared for a hearing is by hiring an attorney who is familiar with the process involved with a Social Security Disability benefits hearing.

Can I receive workers’ compensation benefits and SSD benefits at the same time?

Workers’ compensation and other public disability benefits can reduce the amount you receive in Social Security Disability benefits.

As this pamphlet from the SSA states, all of your public benefits combined may not exceed 80 percent of your earnings before you became disabled.  If it does exceed that amount, your SSD benefits will be reduced until your total benefits are not more than 80 percent of your previous earnings.

Can my children receive SSD benefits?

Under certain circumstances, a child can receive his or her parents’ SSD benefits. The child must be your biological or adopted child or your dependent stepchild. The child must have a parent who:

  • Is disabled or retired and is entitled to SSD benefits, or
  • Who died after having worked long enough in a job where he or she paid Social Security taxes.

Additionally, the child must be unmarried and either:

  • Under age 18,
  • Age 18-19 and a full-time student (up to grade 12), or
  • Age 18 or older and disabled.

If you believe your child is eligible for SSD benefits, you should contact an SSD benefits attorney at our firm without delay.

If I receive disability benefits, can I ever return to work?

The SSA actually wants you to return to work if you are able to do so. The SSA provides assistance through its Ticket to Work program.

The program provides free employment support services such as:

  • Career counseling
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Job placement and training.

Additionally, if you participate in the program, you can enjoy incentives such as:

  • Protection from Continuing Disability Reviews – As long as you are making progress in the program, you will not go through one of these periodic reviews, which are aimed at determining whether you should still be considered disabled and eligible for benefits.
  • Expedited Reinstatement – If your benefits are stopped because you earn too much income, you can request to get them reinstated without needing to submit a new application. Your benefits can continue for up to six months as the SSA reviews your status.
  • Trial Work Period – This is available for SSI recipients. You can keep receiving benefits for up to nine months while you work on a trial basis, regardless of how much you earn.

How do I file for Social Security disability benefits?

Once you decide to apply for Social Security disability benefits, you should gather the information you will need to include in your application and documentation you will need to support your claim.

The information and documentation you will need to provide falls in four categories:

  • Personal – Your date of birth, Social Security number and information about your spouse (including any former spouses) and children.
  • Medical – Information about your current medical condition and medical history, including clinical and lab test findings. You must also include the names and contact information of any medical care providers who have diagnosed and treated you. It will also help to include a statement from your treating doctor about your condition and how it affects your ability to work.
  • Employment – How much income you have earned in the current and previous years and contact information of your current and previous employer(s). Your W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns may be submitted.
  • Benefits – Information about any other disability benefits you receive such as workers’ compensation, Black Lung benefits, VA benefits or state or local government disability benefits.

Of course, our law firm can help you to gather all of this information and supporting documentation and assist in preparing your application.

Once you are ready to submit the application, you can do it one of three ways:

  • Use the Social Security Administration’s online form
  • Go in person to your local SSA field office (you can find one here by using your zip code)
  • Apply by phone and follow it up by mailing in your documents or taking them in person to the nearest SSA field office. The toll-free number is (800) 772-1213 or (800) 325-0778 (for the deaf or hard of hearing).

Can I receive workers’ compensation benefits and SSD benefits at the same time?

You can receive workers’ compensation benefits and many types of benefits from local, state or federal sources at the same time as you receive SSD benefits. However, the amount you receive in these benefits can lead to a reduction in your SSD benefits payments.

All of your public benefits combined, which is called your “total public disability benefit,” may not exceed 80 percent of your earnings before you became disabled. If it does exceed that amount, your SSD benefits will be reduced until your total benefits are no more than 80 percent of your previous earnings.

Keep in mind: Black Lung Part B benefits, Veterans’ Administration (VA) benefits, railroad employee illness benefits and Jones Act payments do not count toward your total public disability benefit. So, they cannot lead to a reduction in the amount you receive in SSD  payments.

Why do I need a lawyer for my disability benefits case?

You are not required to work with a lawyer when you pursue SSD benefits. However, if you choose to pursue benefits without legal help, you will miss out on the many important services that a lawyer can provide. For instance, at Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, we can:

  • Help you to gather information, including medical and work records, and submit an accurate and complete application.
  • Get an assessment of your medical condition and its impact on your ability to work from your treating doctor (which can carry significant weight).
  • Check on the status of your claim and provide any additional information that is needed for a claims examiner or administrative law judge to make its decision.
  • Ensure you meet all deadlines as you appeal a decision on your claim.
  • Help you to prepare for an administrative law judge hearing and present the strongest case possible for you at the hearing.
  • Seek all available ways to expedite a decision on your claim such as filing a dire need letter or requesting an on-the-record review.
  • Pursue all benefits available to you and your family, including workers’ compensation benefits or SSD benefits that your spouse and children may be eligible to receive.

Our firm will charge no costs or fees for our legal services unless you obtain the disability benefits you deserve.

Get Help from Our West Virginia SSD Benefits Attorneys Today

At Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC, we are committed to providing the highest level of service to our clients. We are proud to say that each of our firm’s partners has an AV Preeminent® peer-review rating in the Martindale-Hubbell® legal directory, which is the highest rating possible.

When you are seeking Social Security disability benefits, we believe that you owe it to yourself to work with a lawyer who will bring skill and experience to your case as well as a dedication to treating you with the care and compassion you deserve.

We serve clients in Charleston and communities throughout West Virginia. For help with your SSD benefits claim, call or reach us online today. We can provide a free, immediate consultation.